Civic Partnerships

Leading or participating in partnerships to address critical or timely challenges with the goal of advancing racial equity and building a more inclusive Chicago
A group of children participating in a Stop The Violence Workshop.


Chicago's civic landscape is notable for its broad network of philanthropic, corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations, and its rich history of collaboration between these entities to achieve shared goals. Civic partnerships build upon the collective assets of these leaders and organizations for greater impact. To meet the moment we face collectively, these partnerships must address the history of racist policies and practices that created or contributed to today's challenges, whether the effects of gun violence or stark racial disparities in COVID-19 impacts.

Our Strategy

MacArthur is a leader among local foundations, government agencies, research institutions, nonprofit community organizations, and private sector actors that mobilize collective assets to address pressing challenges or pursue timely opportunities. We work in close collaboration with our partners to identify the problems and support the solutions that community members want to address.

Covid-19 and Racial Justice

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MacArthur partnered with an array of other entities to provide relief and support recovery for affected populations and communities. As of April 2024, Black and Latine residents represented 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Chicago, laying bare the racial disparities in health that pre-existed the pandemic. The Chicago Commitment response to COVID-19 included support for a statewide relief fund in Illinois, a citywide relief fund for the Chicago metropolitan area, and a special fund for individual artists and arts organizations. In addition, we awarded funds to the Chicago Racial Justice Pooled Fund, the We Rise Together Fund, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights for the Just Democracy Illinois collaborative. We also provided resources to organizations responding to the impact of COVID-19 in their communities, including Native American and Asian American populations, and increased funding for violence prevention organizations in Chicago.

With civil unrest stemming from the unrelenting violence against and murder of Black Americans, all too often at the hands of police officers, the Foundation committed to a heightened focus on structural and systemic racism. Within the Chicago Commitment, we pledge to bring the same focus to our work in Civic Partnerships, including support for economic recovery and targeted investments in racial justice movements.

Gun Violence and Police Legitimacy

In response to the dual, mutually reinforcing crises of debilitating gun violence and eroding police legitimacy, and in reaction to the sharp spike in shootings in 2016, the Foundation and its peers created a cooperative effort called the  Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. With more than 50 philanthropic organizations, the Partnership members align their funding around strategies to help reduce gun violence in Chicago in collaboration with community, public, and private sector leaders. The Partnership strives to elevate the voices of the individuals and organizations committed to street outreach and violence prevention, and it supports grassroots activists calling for civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department.

The Partnership supports three broad strategies—direct engagement services and alternatives for those most affected by violence in targeted neighborhoods, police legitimacy and reform, and gun policy—to help create the conditions for violence prevention and reduction. Since 2016, the Partnership has committed more than $140 million for these efforts, of which MacArthur’s contribution to-date is approximately $28 million.

Other Opportunities

From time to time, we may address a timely or unique opportunity, such as ensuring an accurate count throughout Illinois in the decennial census; the establishment of a Chicago Public Library Branch at the Obama Presidential Center; or the acquisition of the historic Ebony and Jet photographic archives.

While the majority of applications for support under Civic Partnerships are invited, in coordination with other funders, organizations that wish to be considered for support from MacArthur are welcome to submit a brief description of their work through our grants portal.

Evaluation for Learning

Evaluation of our work is a critical tool for informing our decision making, leading to better results and more effective stewardship of resources. We develop customized evaluation designs for each of our programs based on the context, problem, opportunity, and approach to the work. Evaluation is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process of collecting feedback and using that information to support our grantees and adjust our strategy.

Findings and analyses from evaluation activities are posted publicly as they become available.


Updated June 2024